Another bold move for Bob's Red Mill

Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods Inc., Oregon's whole grain juggernaut, is placing a big bet on the future as it moves its distribution operations to a new building.

The company leased a 175,000-square-foot warehouse at 11205 S.E. Jennifer St. in Clackamas and will consolidate its warehouse and distribution operations there in January, it announced Tuesday.

The move frees up 70,000-square-feet for new production and packaging space, bringing its total manufacturing, distribution, retail and storage footprint to 480,000 square feet.

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The new distribution center is about two miles from Bob’s Red Mill’s main headquarters in Milwaukie. That’s where it mills, mixes and manufactures 400-plus grain-based products, including 80 gluten free products made in an entirely gluten-free facility.

Bob’s Red Mill also announced a series of management appointments as it moves to a 100 percent employee-based ownership plan. Bob Moore, who formed the company with his wife, Charlee, announced in 2010 he would turn the company over to employees. The transition to the Employee Stock Ownership Plan is still in progress, said Dennis Gilliam, executive vice president for sales and marketing.

Gilliam said the new distribution center helps Bob’s Red Mill ramp up manufacturing as it responds to soaring demand for both its traditional and gluten-free product lines.

Bob’s Red Mill is carried by most U.S. and Canadian supermarket chains as well as natural food stores.

“More and more people understand their food is in reality their medicine. They’re getting more serious about incorporating fruit and vegetables and whole grains in their diets. We are absolutely in the right place at the right time,” Gilliam said.

Gilliam said growth is coming from multiple fronts. Gluten-free products are in high demand both from Celiac Disease sufferers as well as health conscious people with gluten sensitivities.

Food service operators, including bakeries and restaurants, are another major growth area, Gilliam said.

So too are both domestic and international sales.

Bob’s Red Mill is sold in 80 countries and counting. At home, it is enjoying a bump from juicers who blend Bob’s Red Mill grains into smoothies.

Gilliam said Bob’s Red Mill and its grocery partners are revisiting the way its lines are displayed in stores.

It’s preferred format is a four-foot, eight-shelf display in the middle of the bakery aisle. There, Gilliam said, the company finds its health-oriented products fare well against processed confections.

Gilliam said Bob’s Red Mill doesn’t pay placement fees for the displays — “slotting fees” as it’s known in the industry.

“We’re typically not paying slotting. That’s just not what we do. If slotting comes up, we just walk away,” he said.

The new World Distribution Center will accommodate up to 11,000 pallets and offers easy truck access, more than 30 loading docks, easy access to Interstate 205, and a first for Bob’s Red Mill — access to a rail line.

Don Ossey of Capacity Commercial Group, long-time real estate adviser to Bob’s Red Mill, represented it in the new deal.

In addition to the expansion, Bob’s Red Mill announced several promotions:

  • Dennis Vaughn, a 13-year veteran of the company, is promoted to senior vice president of operations and chief operating officer.
  • Robert Agney, a 19-year salesman, is senior vice president of sales.
  • Bryan Emerson, who joined as IT manager in 2006, is vice president of information technology and chief information officer.
  • Matthew Cox, who joined as a marketing assistant 13 years ago, is vice president of marketing.
  • Trey Winthrop, most recently director of corporate finance, is vice president of finance.
  • Phil Guettler, formerly regional sales manager for the Midwestern U.S., is vice president of sales.
  • Jan Chernus, the company’s first in-house sales representative, is vice president of international sales.

Bob’s Red Mill employs 280 people and is among Oregon’s leading corporate philanthropists, contributing $203,000 in 2012 to organizations such as Friends of Zenger Farm, Oregon State University and the National College of Natural Medicine.

Dun & Bradstreet Inc. estimates its net annual sales at $63.3 million.